Obesity costing us $4 billion every year

AUSTRALIA'S health system is groaning under the weight of a heavy burden as obesity costs taxpayers $4 billion each year.

Sax Institute's 45 and Up Study, released yesterday, reveals people aged 45-79 are putting a big strain on the hospital system.

One in every six days spent in Australian hospitals was related to overweight and obesity health problems among the over-45s.

About 63% of Australian adults are overweight or obese.

Australian National University lead researcher Dr Rosemary Korda said the researchers looked at the hospital records of more than 200,000 people.

"There are a lot of broad estimates on how much overweight and obesity costs hospitals and other health services but very little hard evidence linked to real people," Dr Korda said.

"The results we are presenting today shed new light on the impact this problem is having on the health system - and they indicate a greater impact than previously thought."

Researchers found that once a person became overweight, there was a direct link between increases in their body mass index and their chances of being admitted to hospital, the number of days spent in hospital and the cost to the health system.

"For example those with a BMI of 40-50 (extremely obese) had more than double the rate of admissions and days in hospital - and cost the system more than double - than those with a BMI of 23-25 (normal weight)," Dr Korda said.

"Of course we didn't look at younger people, but it is likely that similar patterns exist among younger adults and possibly children.

"It's also likely that use of other healthcare resources such as primary care and pharmaceuticals increase in a similar way with increasing BMI."

"It would be fair to say that the likely future cost to the health system is extremely concerning."

45 and Up Study director professor Emily Banks said it was a large burden for the health system.

"It's clear from these results that if we don't do something to stem the rise in overweight and obesity, then healthcare costs will continue to increase more than they need to," Prof Banks said.

"Even small reductions in the level of overweight and obesity could result in considerable savings to the health system."

The report, a combined project of ANU, University of Western Sydney, University of Sydney and the Sax Institute, was presented at the annual 45 and Up Study meeting in Sydney yesterday.

Weight problems account for:

One in eight hospital admissions (13% of admissions).

One in every six days spent in hospital (18% of hospital days).

One in every six dollars spent on hospitalisation (17% of hospital costs).

Source: Sax Institute 45 and Up Study


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